What do you want from your travels in 2018? Craig Rix shares his ideas for a year of African safaris & adventure
I’m one of those people that uses the occasion of a new year to put a marker in the sand and reflect on what goals I’d like to achieve in the year. Travel gives me so much joy; my mind wanders to spots I would love to venture off to. It’s exciting to think about what new adventures might lie ahead, and what kind of experiences I would like to have, especially if they reflect my new-found enthusiasm for ‘living a better life’!
Inevitably, the ideas flow beyond the realms of reality. There’s no way I will be able to tackle all of them, but I’m going to make a determined effort to put one or two of them in my journal.
I thought I would share some of the more plausible ideas with you. Perhaps there’s a few on this list that might stimulate your discussion as you plan your next African safari.
1. Visit a park that needs your help
There’s an exciting renaissance occurring with many national parks across the continent; parks that have, for whatever reason, been incredibly neglected, however, which now are being revived through private investment or management takeovers by organisations such as African Parks Network.
This is opening up natural areas that have ignored for decades, and giving new hope to their wildlife and habitats. Tourism will be essential to sustaining this great work. There are many worth looking at, but the three that most catch my eye are Liuwa Plain in Zambia, Zakouma in Chad and Gorongosa in Mozambique.
2. Visit an emerging country
I like the idea of visiting places such as Rwanda, to see them at the start of their journey, to show support and remember the thrill of going somewhere fresh, intrepid and unexpected. That’s a spirit of travel that is harder to experience in the modern world. I’ve been to Mozambique already, and am fascinated by Sao Tome and Principe, but right now top of my list is Sierra Leone.
3. Go on an expedition
Each time I hear of a family travelling the world, all their belongings packed in the trunk of their vehicle for years on end, I feel a pang of anxiety that my life is painfully mediocre, that I am missing out on a dramatic life-changing adventure.
Reason assures me that the practicalities of life mean such abandon is simply not feasible. But I reckon we could all arrange for a smaller expedition — even just a few weeks, but ideally a month or two. The secret is to ensure there is a sense of intrepid adventure, with extended hours being a dusty steering wheel, sharing a simple meal cooked over a campfire.
Of course, being somewhat cossetted, I’m realistic enough to know I can’t take Bear Grylls along with me (much to my wife’s disappointment). A road trip through Namibia sounds about perfect for me. Perhaps even beginning in Cape Town and finishing in Victoria Falls. It’ll need intense planning, so maybe this year I’ll get my head around actually doing it in 2019!
4. Sleep in the middle of nowhere
One of the things I have missed nearly every day that I have lived outside of Africa is the vast night sky, sparkling with millions of stars, accompanied by the sound mother nature. There is something so life-affirming about being as far away from civilisation as possible, immersed in nature, the whole universe feeding your dreams.
I would happily ensconce myself in one of the many star beds now offered at lodges across East and southern Africa, ideally in a dark sky reserve like NamibRand in Namibia. However, my ultimate would be sleeping out on the ridiculously flat Makgadigkadi Pans in Botswana.
5. Be healthy
In the past, holidays have been an excuse for lazy indulgence. But I’ve been working hard to live a more healthy lifestyle, observing my diet and doing more exercises. Now I am excited about using future trips to enhance and energise this. Africa is an outdoor environment; it draws you into the open fresh air, begs you to stretch your legs and appreciate freshly grown and cooked food.
For my next safari, I’m going to find places that will enthuse and encourage me further. Perhaps a yoga safari? I’ve never done yoga, but the idea of doing it at Tuli Safari Lodge in Botswana is more appealing than at my local gym in Oxfordshire. Or perhaps I’ll time my safari to allow me to do a 10km run or half marathon in somewhere like Victoria Falls, Malawi or in the shadows of Kilimanjaro. Much more thrilling, and something to work for!